April 4th, 2008 will be the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s death. Has time gone by that fast already? Where is the “Negro” today and what is his current state of affairs.

From Dr. King’s most famous speech.

We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: “For Whites Only.”* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹

Well you can rest. You should be satisfied. Those are now things of the past.

Not so you say? Well perhaps you forgot what life was like for an Afro-American forty-five years ago when these words were spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Let that speech, 100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation remind you for a moment.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

Wait a minute. Blacks still outnumber whites in our prisons. Blacks dropout faster than whites in any school. Black men father more children out of wedlock than any other classification. There is more work to do. Perhaps if they were more forceful about seeking change….

But again, the wise Dr. King foresaw that question and has a ready answer.

In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Here the power of Dr. King is most apparent. The Negro community was poised to meet oppression with violence. They wisely chose not to. Would white people show the same restraint? I wonder? Historically whites have never shown restraint before. It was white people’s failure to find a peaceful solution that caused both the Revolutionary and Civil War.

King continues this theme.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And they did not. So how has the “Dream” been translated over forty five years into reality? Let’s analyze.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

One needs look no further than the maternity wing of Christiana Hospital. Mission accomplished. Check.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
Mission accomplished. Check.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
Task Completed. Check.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

Courtesy of the Crimson Tide
Courtesy of the University of Alabama

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

Done. Even in Mormon Country.

Although it is out of sync. This should come at the end.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Dexter, Yolanda , Martin, and Bernice.

Again, Mission accomplished. Fait accompli.

I can remember looking out my bedroom window and seeing their segregated school. Ironically in honor of the Emancipation Proclamation, it was named Lincoln High. Later I once had the opportunity to see the inside. Six classrooms for twelve grades. Most blacks fail to realize how far they have come.

So when I hear of a young black school kid, getting in his teacher’s face and threatening to assault him/her in their own classroom, I want to ram my fist through his rib cage, into his chest cavity, grab his heart, and shove it into his face. The last words I want him to hear would be these: “Son, you don’t know how close you came to “Not” have this opportunity to learn! To the rest of you,… treat the chance for an full education as a gift, one deserving of a man like Dr. King!”

Ironically that a young black would not even know exactly just how far he’d come over the last forty years, is the crowning glory of Martin Luther King’s achievement. Things have changed so much. Today we are all individuals responsible for our own actions. No one cares one iota about the color of skin.

Right now, we are looking at the possibility of the first black president. Again no one cares about the color of his skin. It is all about what he will do for our country.

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King.